We Speak to Simon Fildes, Curator of the Screendance Programme at DIG

New dance biennial, Dance International Glasgow, opened at Tramway yesterday with a fantastic programme of live events and screen performances. Taking place at venues across the city until 6 June, the inaugural festival celebrates a selection of the world’s most exciting dance artists and companies through a dedicated dance schedule of shows, workshops, screenings and exhibitions. Part of this year’s DIG is Screendance From Scotland, a short retrospective of work from Scottish-based artists Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson. Practising in the category of videodance, Fildes and McPherson collaborate with emerging and established dance artists in Scotland to produce dance pieces created specially for the screen.

To mark the beginning of DIG, as well as ASFF’s current call for entries and a new dance strand, we speak to Fildes, curator of Screendance From Scotland, about his work in videodance and the increasing popularity of dance film.

ASFF: Screendance From Scotland is part of Dance International Glasgow. What can audiences look forward to?
SF: Katrina and I are screening four films as a 30 minute mini retrospective as part of a longer programme of Scottish work curated by Tim Nunn. The work we are showing represents projects stretching over almost 20 years, from the start of our collaboration together in the late 1990’s alongside two more recent works. One of the works Coire Ruadh commissioned during The Year of Natural Scotland, is a world premiere and features well known dance artists in Scotland; Robbie Synge, Frank McConnell and former SDT dancer Ruth Janssen. It is certainly interesting to see the development of the work over that time period, a lot of it informed by various collaborations and the context of moving to the Highlands during that time.

ASFF: How did the collaboration between Katrina McPherson and yourself come about?
SF: After I finished my postgrad at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, I was working in an edit facilities house in Edinburgh and Katrina was shown some of my personal work by the manager there. She was looking for an editor to work with on PACE, a short film she was making with Marissa Zanotti for the BBC Dance for the Camera series. Katrina liked my experimental and rhythmic style and so we worked on that together and have worked together ever since.

ASFF: Can you talk a little about the videodance genre?
SF: Videodance is a term coined sometime in the 1980’s for something that has been around since the birth of cinema. It is the marrying of video and dance to create a hybrid artform. It is a dance that uses the language of cinematic / video arts or a video that uses the language of choreography. It is not just a recording of a dance, as it makes full use of film techniques such as location or effects. This means that it could not be experienced as a live work or presented live on stage. In our case we use improvised dance and choreographic structures in editing such as repetition. Our videodance work has been inspired by the approaches of postmodern dance artists such as Lucinda Childs and Yvonne Rainer. Some videodance artists take a more formal cinematic or theatrical approach, others have taken the genre to the place where what most people understand as dance actually doesn’t seem to play any part in it. This is what makes the genre so rich and allows a breadth of experimentation that can often be challenging to pin down.

ASFF: There is a growing number of dance artists making dance for the screen. In your opinion, why is this happening?
SF: The expansion of dance artists exploring video is, I think, a direct result of accessibility to good quality affordable technology. It makes sense if you can’t afford to tour a work or pay a company of dancers – a video can travel the world. The problem right now is that, while there are a lot of people experimenting and exploring the medium, getting your work out there and noticed on an international stage is becoming more difficult. I don’t see much work from Scotland getting screened at international festivals and having sat on festival selection panels I don’t see much work from Scotland getting submitted. I hope that this will change. I don’t think its enough just to make a short and stick it on YouTube and hope for the best. In my opinion, there needs to be a much more self confident proactive approach to letting the world know that dance on screen can be an exciting and thought provoking approach to presenting work. Also, artists who are making work need to be able to see other work and should actively seek out and watch older work. While there are some web channels, like Tendu.tv that offer up a good range of work, sometimes it can be quite hard to discover videodance pieces.

ASFF: How does short film lend itself to dance and vice-versa?
SF: The pairing of film arts and dance has been around since early cinema. When you are experimenting with a new moving image technology it is natural to explore movement as a subject. The human body as a subject for the arts in general is not unusual. We all have bodies and respond emotionally and kinaesthetically to watching other bodies moving, particularly if you are drawn into the centre of the action which is not only possible, but also speaking for myself, absolutely desirable when using video. It offers exciting approaches to poetics and non-narrative explorations of what it means to be human.

ASFF: Are there any previous projects that stand out to you, and what’s up next in 2015?
SF: In 2010 we collaborated with an amazing Chinese / Tibetan choreographer called Sang Jijia and made a short film called There is a Place. The film went on to be shown at many venues, programmes, and just about every international dance film festival on the planet, and won awards. This film will be shown at one of the Jumping Frames screenings at Tramway during DIG along with a range of other Chinese and Hong Kong works, which is why its not included in our retrospective. I am particularly proud of this work as it was made on a tight budget and was made from the heart in a very improvisational way.

2015 is going to be a pivotal year for Katrina and I as we will no longer be collaborating. So this retrospective at Tramway marks the end of an era for us. We have two short films and a new documentary starting to go out into the festival circuit, as well as our Hyperchoreography installation being presented until 10 May at Tramway. This installation, also a collaboration with Sang Jijia, has been previously showcased in Hong Kong and Beijing, and will go to Guangdong Dance Festival in the autumn. Katrina and I will continue our own respective individual practice and teaching. I am researching and developing Screendance in Scotland with support from Creative Scotland, working on some new project ideas and will go to teach a workshop at Danca em Foco, Brazil, in August. Katrina will be at ADF Screendance in July and Montreal in September to teach.

Screendance From Scotland, 30 April, part of Dance International Glasgow, Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow.

Further information can be found at www.tramway.org.

To see more work by Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson, visit www.go-at.co.uk.

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Submit your work to ASFF’s new dance film strand until 31 May. For details, visit www.asff.co.uk/submit.

1. Still from Screendance From Scotland retrospective.